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DONALD G. STAUFFER v. THERESA E. STAUFFER (01/29/76)

decided: January 29, 1976.

DONALD G. STAUFFER, APPELLEE,
v.
THERESA E. STAUFFER, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Robert S. Gawthrop, III, West Chester, for appellant.

Fred T. Cadmus, III, West Chester, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, C. J., and Pomeroy and Nix, JJ., concur in the result. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Author: Eagen

[ 465 Pa. Page 564]

OPINION

On April 23, 1970, appellee Donald G. Stauffer joined with his wife, appellant Theresa E. Stauffer, in conveying to appellant alone for the stated consideration of one dollar the land and residence which both owned and had been occupying as tenants by the entireties. Subsequently, he brought this action in equity in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County to compel a reconveyance. After a trial, the chancellor made his adjudication and

[ 465 Pa. Page 565]

    entered a decree nisi in favor of Mr. Stauffer which granted the relief sought; on November 29, 1974, the court en banc dismissed the exceptions of Mrs. Stauffer and made the decree final. This direct appeal followed.*fn1

The record discloses that the parties were married on October 17, 1953, and that they became the owners of the land in question by means of a gift from Mrs. Stauffer's parents on August 3, 1956; their house was subsequently built and paid for primarily, if not entirely, out of the earnings of Mr. Stauffer. Toward the end of March, 1970, Mrs. Stauffer became suspicious that her husband had become involved with another woman, and on March 26 she consulted an attorney for advice about her domestic situation. Shortly thereafter, she confronted her husband with her suspicions, and he admitted to her not only that he had been engaged in an adulterous relationship, but that the "other woman" was Mrs. Stauffer's own sister, Victoria Gavin. Subsequently, Edward Gavin, the husband of Victoria, came to the Stauffer home, and in the presence of Mrs. Stauffer and Mr. Gavin, Mr. Stauffer wrote out a "confession" in which he detailed his involvement with Mrs. Gavin.

The foregoing facts were essentially undisputed. Other events leading up to and following the aforementioned conveyance, however, and particularly the relationship and understanding of the parties during this period, could be determined for the most part only from the often-contradictory testimony at trial of Mr. and Mrs. Stauffer. After hearing the testimony, the chancellor made the following pertinent findings of fact:

"3. In late March or early April, 1970, Plaintiff made confession of his adulterous relationship with Defendant's sister, Victoria Gavin, which activities had ended in late March, 1970.

[ 465 Pa. Page 566]

"4. The Defendant consulted with Lawrence Sager, Esquire, four or five times between March 26, 1970 and April 23, 1970.

"5. The Defendant had been highly emotional and distraught during the period of March 26-April 23, 1970.

"6. The Defendant related to the Plaintiff that Mr. Gavin would be down at the house 'with the law.'

"7. The Plaintiff did evidence a fear of a lawsuit by Mr. Gavin.

"8. On April 23, 1970, the Plaintiff agreed to transfer his interest in the jointly-held property after a prolonged hysterical outburst by the Defendant.

"9. On April 23, 1970, at a meeting at Mr. Sager's office, Plaintiff transferred his interest in the jointly-held property to the Defendant.

"11. The Plaintiff, at the April 23rd meeting was advised by Mr. Sager of his right to consult counsel of his choice and he elected to proceed without consulting an attorney.

"12. At all times during their marriage, the Plaintiff had made any important financial decisions, upon which the Defendant relied.

"13. At the meeting of April 23, 1970 Plaintiff expressed concern over the security of the 'homestead' for his wife and children.

"14. Until the date of transfer, the Plaintiff and Defendant had continued to live together and ...


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